Assembly Member Seawright Joins in Passing Legislation to Increase Transparency and Accountability in Government During Sunshine Week

Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright has joined in supporting four measures in the New York State Assembly to enhance transparency and accountability in government, marking the Sunshine Week's nationwide observance.

"Now more than ever, our democratic society demands the public's business transpire openly," Assembly Member Seawright said. "We take these actions fully mindful of Justice Louis Brandeis words more than a century ago that 'sunlight is the best of disinfectants.'"

For Freedom of Information Law requests involving criminal actions, the Assembly's sunshine package includes a bill cosponsored by Seawright to clarify that records cannot be withheld from the public solely because they involve an investigation or criminal proceedings.

It also ensures that when the law enforcement exemption is used to deny a FOIL request, out of concern that the disclosure will interfere with a judicial proceeding, only the presiding judge can determine whether to uphold the exemption or release such information.

The Assembly approved a clarification that while the name of a state pension retiree can be publicly disclosed, the retiree's beneficiary's name is to be protected. Assembly Member Seawright is a cosponsor of this bill.

Another measure passed would require the disclosure of names and residence addresses of members, managers or other authorized people of an LLC in lease agreements where New York State is the tenant in office buildings owned by LLCs.

A fourth bill in the package would waive the ability of government agencies in New York to claim copyright protection unless the work reflects artistic creation, scientific or academic research, or if the agency intends to distribute the original work or derivative work based on it to the public.

The Freedom of Information Law allows the public to access and obtain various government documents, records, and information from various government agencies, such as property and deed records, court cases and police records, budgetary and government transactions, and more.

Sunshine Week, a national initiative by the American Society of News Editors, promotes the importance of open government and the dangers of excessive and unnecessary secrecy.